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Garden bodies murder pair face life

A woman and her husband are facing a life sentence after being convicted of murdering her parents and burying them in their own back garden with "cold calculation and meticulousness".

The bodies of William and Patricia Wycherley lay undiscovered for 15 years until police unearthed them last October from the back garden of their former home in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

Today, a jury found the couple's daughter Susan Edwards, 56, and her husband Christopher, 57, guilty of their murders following a two-week trial at Nottingham Crown Court.

The couple showed no emotion as the verdicts were read out and did not acknowledge each other until they stood to leave the dock, when Edwards put his arm across his wife's shoulders.

During the trial, the court heard that the debt-ridden couple had murdered her reclusive parents between May 1 and 5 1998 at their home in Blenheim Close, Forest Town, Mansfield.

They then raked in £245,000 over the next 15 years by pretending they were still alive.

The Edwards emptied bank accounts, collected benefits and pension payments and even sold the Wycherleys' home, with the bodies buried in the back garden.

Neighbours and relatives were told that Mr and Mrs Wycherley, 85 and 63, had gone travelling or had moved to the coast for health reasons.

Mrs Edwards, a former librarian, wrote Christmas cards and letters to relatives telling them her parents were travelling in Ireland "because of the good air".

But the Edwards fled to France from their home in Dagenham, Essex, after receiving a letter from the Centenarian Society who wanted to contact Mr Wycherley as what would have been his 100th birthday drew near.

The bodies were only unearthed by police at the house, currently occupied by a tenant, last October, after the Edwards ran out of money.

The discovery came after Mr Edwards' stepmother contacted the police telling them that her son had asked her for money and told her he had helped his wife to bury her parents in 1998.

The couple were arrested at London's St Pancras station weeks later after Mr Edwards emailed Nottinghamshire Police to "surrender".

During the trial, the court heard that the Edwards, who married in 1983, had been in financial difficulties for much of their relationship and remained more than £160,000 in debt when arrested.

Despite their debts, the couple spent thousands on film star memorabilia including signed photos and autographs of Hollywood actor and two-times Oscar winner Gary Cooper and crooner Frank Sinatra.

Throughout their trial they denied murder and claimed that Mrs Edwards had been provoked into killing her mother.

Mrs Edwards, who had admitted the manslaughter of Mrs Wycherley, claimed to the jury that she had shot her mother after hearing her shoot her father while staying with her parents over the bank holiday.

She told the court she returned the following weekend with her husband, where she confessed what had happened and he helped her to bury the bodies.

The couple said they continued to claim the dead pair's benefits and pensions only to cover up the shootings.

But a jury of eight women and four men dismissed their "rehearsed" story and took just over six hours to unanimously convict the couple of murder.

Following the verdicts, Detective Chief Inspector Rob Griffin, who led the inquiry for Nottinghamshire Police, said the couple acted with "cold calculation and meticulousness".

He said: "Susan and Christopher Edwards had 15 years to come up with an account of what happened that night in May 1998. In their interviews they didn't stray from a well-rehearsed script, and even used the same words and turns of phrases. I wonder whether they had started to believe their own lies.

"The Edwards acted with cold calculation and meticulousness, killing and burying in an unmarked grave to be forgotten the people who raised Susan. They then spent the next 15 years exploiting and profiting from it.

"But we had questions. We scrutinised their every word and, while we found fundamental elements of the story to be true, there were inconsistencies in the detail. It was that detail which painted a very different picture, one that involved premeditated murder, likely driven by a long-harboured financial grudge and the opportunity to get themselves out of debt."

He added: "Their surviving family has been understandably stunned and upset by what has happened. I just hope they can take comfort in the knowledge that William and Patricia will now be officially and respectfully laid to rest."

In a statement released through Nottinghamshire Police following the hearing, Mr Wycherley's nieces, Hilary Rose and Christine Harford, said their mother, who died in 2009, would have been horrified by the murder of her youngest brother.

They said: "Had she been alive now, she would have been horrified by these brutal murders, and the callous treatment of the bodies afterwards.

"It would have been extremely upsetting for her to discover the deception and lies practised by her niece - our cousin - Susan and her husband Christopher against her and others for so long, for their own selfish greed and gain."

They added: "We are private people and have found it difficult to have our family thrust into the public eye in such a way. We have felt powerless throughout this terrible ordeal but, while we cannot change what has happened, there is one thing we can do - we can officially acknowledge William and Patricia's deaths. Our main priority now is to see that they are finally laid to rest with dignity."

The judge, Mrs Justice Kathryn Thirlwall, told the Edwards they could expect a life term when they are sentenced at the court on Monday.

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